Recently, the New York Post reported that former Alaska governor and previous Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin learned of her husband’s desire to pursue a divorce through an email she received from her husband’s attorney on June 19, 2019. However, the divorce itself was not filed by Todd Palin until almost three months after the email was sent which also was about a week after the couple’s 31st wedding anniversary. The divorce complaint alleges an “incompatibility of temperament between the parties such that they find it impossible to live together as husband and wife.” The divorce complaint also requests that the parties receive joint legal and physical custody of their minor child, Trig, who also has Down Syndrome.
How Are Divorce Complaints Served in Texas?
Every state has both its own causes of action for divorce, such as incompatibility of temperament, as well as recognized legal methods of service. When a divorce complaint is filed in Texas, the parties are known as the petitioner and the respondent. Once the petitioner files their complaint in the county in which they are a legal resident, they must begin the process of service on the respondent.
Service is a crucial legal concept in the legal system as it may directly impact the legal rights of the parties. Because of this, service upon the respondent of a divorce complaint may only be completed in certain ways in order to fulfill legal requirements.
Generally, the petitioner will pay to have the respondent served by the sheriff or by a private service processor. Once the sheriff or the private service processor is in receipt of the necessary divorce documents, it is their responsibility to locate the respondent. This is generally done by relying on the information included in the divorce complaint. Once service has occurred, the process server or sheriff will complete a Return of Service and file it with the court.
In Texas, the petitioner is not allowed to personally serve the respondent. The petitioner is required to use a private process server, sheriff, or constable. This helps ensure that the respondent’s legal right to due process.
Service in the Event the Respondent Cannot Be Located
There are many divorce cases wherein the respondent cannot be located. It could be that the respondent no longer resides at the location listed in the divorce complaint. It could also be that the respondent knows that the petitioner planned to fil for divorce and is seeking to avoid service. When this happens, the petitioner may file a special motion to request that the court allow them to serve the spouse through another means, such as through certified mail or through publication. If the judge approves the motion, the petitioner may then attempt service through certified mail or complete service through publication. The petitioner will be required to provide proof of service or attempt at service if the certified mail is not retrieved.
Another Option: Obtaining a Waiver of Service
If the respondent is in agreement with the divorce and does not wish to appear in court, the petitioner may ask the respondent to sign a waiver of service. Signing this waiver, the respondent waives their right to be served with any notice related to the divorce proceeding. Of course, a waiver of service isn’t a legal tool that will benefit every divorce case. In fact, anyone being asked to sign one should first talk with an experienced Texas divorce attorney to ensure that they understand how signing it will affect them throughout the divorce process.
If you’re filing for divorce or if you’ve been served with divorce papers or a request to sign a waiver of service, the Law Office of Julie Johnson provides free initial consultations. To schedule your consultation, call the Law Office of Julie Johnson now at 214-265-7630.